Audi’s R8 V8 – with the 4.2L powerplant – is a supercar bargain

Audi’s halo model is the R8, and with the recent arrival of both the R8 5.2 (V10) and the R8 5.2 Spyder, the entry-level V8 model has been pushed out of the spotlight. This is unfortunate as the car shares its sexy lines (minus a few styling cues) with its oil burning big sister, is almost as fast, and stands as a relative bargain in the supercar arena.

2011 Audi R8 4.2 V8 review

I recently had the opportunity to get re-acquainted with a V8-powered R8 for the better part of a week and must say I was smitten enough by the raucous symphony of its 4.2-litre engine and throaty exhaust that I didn’t get much else accomplished during that time period.  All I wanted to do was drive.

Also check out: 2017 Audi R8 V10 Plus Exclusive Edition: Only 25 Produced

Styling

The bold red paint, ultra-wide stance, enormous alloy wheels, and sinister LED lights attract attention at each and every intersection. The vertical styling “blade” fitted to my test vehicle was the optional carbon-fibre “Sigma” version which added an extra level of flare to the swoopy bodywork, and served as a reminder of this car’s sport competition heritage – derived from its largely carbon-fibre namesake, the R8 prototype race car.

2011 Audi R8 4.2 V8 review2011 Audi R8 4.2 V8 review

Driving Impressions: 6-speed stick shift is standard with R8

R8’s come standard with a 6-speed manual transmission or fitted with Audi’s clever R-Tronic auto-manual. Interestingly, this is one car for which this decision will have an enormous impact on the driving experience.  My car came with the short-throw manual which is the preferred transmission for most enthusiast drivers, as the act of sliding the carefully machined shift lever through the exposed aluminum gate as you row through the close-ratio transmission truly makes you feel a part of the process.  Add a firm competition grade clutch, lightly assisted communicative steering, and the incredible stability offered by Audi’s legendary quattro all-wheel-drive system and you have the recipe for one of the world’s greatest automotive treats.

2011 Audi R8 4.2 V8 review

Acceleration from the 4.2-litre V8 is strong off the line and torque is in abundance, so selecting shift points as the tachometer needle kisses the redline delivers a very satisfying, and highly addictive, driving experience.

The R8 Drive

I managed to slip away from my worldly responsibilities long enough to take this dream machine on a day-long journey that would include some of my all-time favourite roads. I planned my escape from reality  so that I would depart before weekend travelers and truckers would clog the sweet bits through the Fraser Canyon  and the lack of traffic would allow me to do some filming along the way.

2011 Audi R8 4.2 V8 review

Leaving Hope

It was still dark when I set out from historic Hope, B.C. along the slinky ribbon of pavement that is the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1) as it parallels the raging river that helped carve out this incredible string of valleys. The rugged landscape is characterized by steep cliffs and thick forests, so engineers had to use a series of tunnels to allow for both train and automobile traffic to safely navigate this treacherous topography. The anticipation was killing me as I wound my way along the river as it was these long tunnels that would allow me to sample the Audi’s sweet sounds like never before. As I roared through these concrete chambers flicking from gear to gear,  I must admit, that the potent mix of created by the sounds of the engine, burbling exhaust and metallic clunk of the shift lever proved so sweet that I had to make several passes to satisfy the needs of my pleasantly tickled eardrums.

2011 Audi R8 4.2 V8 review2011 Audi R8 4.2 V8 review

Hitting Highway 8

The second leg of my road-gasm took me from Spences Bridge to Merritt via the Nicola Highway (Highway 8), which is a favourite with motorcyclists and enthusiast drivers alike due to its knee-dropping corners and scenic beauty. The R8 was just about the perfect tool for this curvaceous, two-lane test track as its all-wheel-drive system, ultra-wide sport tires, and responsive handling made cornering maneuvers so simple to execute that it was easy to find your rhythm as a driver, which is always a plus on such a technically challenging road.

2011 Audi R8 4.2 V8 review

On the Coquihalla Connector

After taking the car to sunny Kelowna for a quick photo shoot, I made my way down the Coquihalla Connector (97C) until it meets up with Highway 5A near Aspen Grove.  The 5A is lightly used and is very entertaining as it carves through two provincial parks  before making its terminus in Princeton. It definitely finds its way onto my short list of roads worth exploring should you find yourself in the area behind the wheel of an exciting automobile. The stretch from Aspen Grove to Princeton is well maintained and  takes about an hour to complete at the posted speed limit. The route provides an excellent combination of twists and turns upon which a driver can test his or her car’s handling prowess. Again, the R8 displayed its exceptional poise, balance and precision with each passing mile.

The R8 proved such a good model earlier in the day that I made a quick detour deep into the heart of the B.C.’s fruit growing region towards Keremeos for one last photo opportunity before  returning to Vancouver. Here you find one of the last covered train bridges in the country. It has been reconditioned and converted for use by automobiles and looks resplendent in its red paint, much like the R8. It was here that a curious RCMP officer pulled me over for going to slow. In reality  I had been parked on the bridge taking photos of this sexy beast and the curious constable wanted to take a closer look at the car as he had never seen one in person. I have no doubt that similar encounters would become  a regular occurrence if you owned such a special car as he mentioned he had seen me earlier in the day in Princeton. If you don’t like attention the R8 is NOT the car for you.

2011 Audi R8 4.2 V8 review2011 Audi R8 4.2 V8 review

As I ticked off the last few kilometres of my adventure and my day came to an end my thoughts turned to the car as a whole, and how it represented such a complete package.  The car’s spacious cabin proved comfortable over the duration of my trip, and surprisingly, I felt more relaxed than I thought I would after such a long day behind the wheel.

Interior Impressions

The car’s cockpit environment is all business but dressed in formal attire, so the R8 makes the perfect companion for delivering a companion to the opera, or better yet, carving through the esses at a local track day. All the electronic and comfort accessories one expects in a luxury automobile are present and accounted for, but the body-hugging sport seats and flat-bottomed steering wheel will have you dreaming of Lemans glory as you navigate through traffic on your daily commute to work. Yes, I did say commute. Unlike most cars in this category the Audi R8  has been designed to be reliable and efficient enough to warrant use as a daily driver. Try that in a Ferrari or Lamborghini.

Learn more – Audi R8

CONS:

  • Thirsty for premium gasoline
  • Limited cargo space
  • Traffic-light challenges become old very quickly

2011 Audi R8 V8 Specs:

Base price (CAD MSRP): $144,000 6-speed; $155,500 (R-tronic)

Engine: 4.2-litre, 8 cylinder, DOHC with FSI Direct Injection

Horsepower: 430 hp @ 7800

Torque: 317 lb-ft @ 6000

0-100km/h: 4.6 seconds

Transmission: 6-speed manual or 6-speed R-Tronic automatic (optional)

Brakes:  Internally ventilated discs, 4-piston rear, 8-piston front

Cargo capacity: 100 Litres

Fuel economy (L/100km):  City 17.1 / Highway 10.3 / Combined 14.0

Russell Purcell is an award-winning automotive journalist and photographer based in Vancouver, B.C. His passion for automobiles was sparked at the tender age of six, when a family friend gave the wide-eyed first grader a ride to school in a track prepared Porsche 911 RSR. He continues to fan the flames by building an impressive library of automotive related books as well as a vast collection of interesting automobilia and motoring artefacts. Russell is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada, and is active on Twitter as RoadTestRuss.